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A dream come true for Taylor Radtke
By Amy Mack | Daily Herald Staff

Taylor Radtke and her mom, Laurie, get up close with one of the animals at the world famous San Diego Zoo Saturday to fulfill her make a wish dream.


Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Taylor Radtke and mom Laurie check out a komodo dragon.


Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Taylor and Blake Radtke dressed head to toe as zoo keepers prepare to visit the zoo Sunday.


Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Taylor Radtke's brother, Blake, takes a snapshot of the family.


Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/15/2007 6:17 AM | Updated: 10/15/2007 9:26 AM

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Donning her special khaki "official" zookeeper outfit, Taylor Radtke made a beeline Sunday for the San Diego Zoo.

Worries of brain tumors and a dreaded visit to yet another doctor could keep. After all, she had monkeys and other furry friends to see.

"It was out of this world," Taylor's mom, Laurie, said after a full day at the San Diego Zoo, part of Taylor's special wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"Oh, my goodness, it was a fun day."

Earlier Coverage
Taylor Radtke
Seven-year-old Taylor Radtke, diagnosed with a rare tumor that threatens her vision and mobility, needs life-saving surgery that few doctors are willing to perform.
How you can help
DONATE - Donations for Taylor Radtke are being accepted at First Midwest Bank's Johnsburg branch, 3805 N. Johnsburg Road, and McHenry branch, 1308 N. Route 31. Funds raised will be put toward research, travel expenses and medical costs.
SEND A CARD - If you'd like to write the Radtkes a card, please send them courtesy of Amy Mack, Daily Herald, 385 Airport Road, Suite A, Elgin, IL 60123.

The best part? "The monkeys," Taylor said softly, in between bites of mashed potatoes, part of her first-ever room service meal.

Why are monkeys the best part? "I don't know," she giggled.

Second best part? The polar bears. Why? She giggled another "I don't know."

The 7-year-old Johnsburg girl who has had a special connection to all sorts of animals since she was born hasn't even hit the best part yet. Her special behind-the-scenes zoo visit -- including a one-on-one with her adopted monkey -- won't be until Tuesday because of a few planning complications.

Meanwhile, she and her mom; dad, Jeff, a Lake Zurich fire captain; and little brother will take on Sea World today.

Along the way, Laurie will talk to specialist Dr. Robert Spetzler's assistant to get more details on the far more difficult part of this journey -- the intricate surgery Taylor needs to remove a clivus meningioma that threatens her vision, mobility and life. The tumor, unusual in any child, is particularly difficult because it's located within the clivus bone as well as the sinoid sinus near the base of her brain and tip of her spinal cord.

As much as they want and need for Taylor to have the vital surgery, the pleasant respite this weekend has them all wanting to delay a bit.

The last test, an angiogram of Taylor's brain that cleared the way for the surgery, was also a very difficult day for all.

For the first time since the medical woes began more than a year ago, a distressed Taylor balked at any more doctor visits. It's a lot more fun to talk to the animals, stroll around the zoo and just play, Laurie said.

But they know this is just a respite. "We know this is the calm before we go through another storm. And we know we still have a big storm to go through." But for the first time in more than two weeks, the worried mom got to sleep more than a few hours straight.

And Taylor is "having the time of her life. A smile has not been off her face since she saw the plane on the tarmac," Laurie said, referring to the corporate jet that whisked them to San Diego Saturday.

"I took a picture of her sleeping last night because she was so peaceful and restful -- it was beautiful. She was holding her monkey, of course."

The family's desperate quest to find help for Taylor triggered an overwhelming response from Daily Herald readers with calls and e-mails continuing late Sunday night. Laurie said she hopes people know just how much the family appreciates everything.

"It's amazing people who don't even know us are continuing to help us and care about what's going on for Taylor," Laurie said. "I think it's just amazing."